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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Political People: Blowing Storms vs a Changing Landscape

Politics is a blood sport.  At least, that's what political brawlers like to tell us.  They relish the fight and believe a big part of what they are supposed to do is provide entertainment for an otherwise disengaged electorate.  

By and large, they're right - busy people trying to get through their day and maybe think a little bit for tomorrow don't have the time or luxury to immerse themselves in the nuance of, say, the GST or the Fair Elections Act.

It's only when a Party or interest group issues a rallying cry with enough volume, distribution and repetition that people start to pay attention and even then, it's pulling teeth to incite action.

But what happens when political people feel like they and they alone are the sales agents of democratic engagement?  Well, they tend to operate like sales people.  Sales is transactional, not structural, and is focused on wins, not sustainability.

The big challenge for political operatives is that when you look at political relations as a series of transactions, you tend not to look at the bigger trend lines emerging.

So what if there have been a growing number of very public scandals involving the political sausage-making process?  Scandals happen all the time, and get moved on from.  Does it really matter that staffers and emails and back-room deals are coming to light?  It just means one Party or another got sloppy; if a Party maintains strict internal discipline, that won't happen.  Right?

Wrong.  Political people may think in terms of storms and passage - get through this election, you've got a brief reprieve before the next one hits - but that's not the emerging reality.  

The storms are adding to a number of elements, including the rise of social media, the economic impacts of living in a global village and increasingly complex societal needs that are straining a government model that is way past its best-before date.  

The landscape is changing beneath our feet, yet political people are trying to adjust old methodologies to function on this new, increasingly open terrain.

Fortunately, there is another trend emerging as the rains of change pour down with increasing vigour.  
People from every level within bureaucracies, the private sector and civil society are coming together to raise tough questions about social sustainability and work together to catalyze new solutions.  It's a messy, iterative process, but it has to be.

To get through these challenging discussions means a new approach to communications, one that is less focused on how to get a message out and more focused on how it is received.  Self-regulation, social-emotional literacy and empathy are all part of this package.

I may dislike what you say, the new maxim goes - but I am committed to understanding why you said it.

The landscape is changing; it won't be the toughest who fight their way to the top, nor the cleverest who spin their way out of holes they dug themselves.

As we should all know by now, that's not how evolution works.

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